Friday, December 31, 2021

Vaccine invite acceptance level leaves Health Officials puzzled: Province provides for final COVID update for 2021

Health Minister Adrian Dix, Public Health Officer Doctor Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem, who has the lead on British Columbia's vaccine rollout program hosted their final information session of 2021 this morning. 

A 10 AM session that looked the challenges of 2021 and put much of the focus on the vaccination program moving forward in January.

"I know that many of us are fatigued it has been a long road for us and another year of challenge, and COVID-19 has proven to be a difficult burden and an ever-changing burden for us. 

We have lost parents, friends, grandparents. We've faced isolation and separation, but through all of that we have found ways to connect and support each other. Even though it had disruption of things we enjoy in life, from arts to sports to music. 

Despite these hardships through what are highly effective and safe vaccines combined with the efforts of everyone, we have, without exaggeration saved many, many lives" -- Doctor Bonnie Henry at today's information session

The success of the first and second dose program made for some of the data review from the session, as well as a look towards the vaccine program for children and for the third booster shots.

Towards the oncoming crush of Omicron Doctor Henry noted:

"But what we are seeing right now, is once again this virus has changed and as we've talked about in the last two weeks, it has changed to become more infectious it is spreading rapidly in our communities and we see that reflected just in the numbers of people who are tested and the numbers who are positive ... For those people who are vaccinated it is mostly causing mild illness and that is a good thing but with rapid increasing in numbers we are also facing challenges. 

We are facing challenges in people being off work because of illness and that is stretching some systems, it's stretching our health care systems and we know now that we can spread this rapidly even with very mild symptoms. "

In the health care sector, Doctor Henry observed of the impacts on the provincial health care system and that of Long Term Care, that making for the lead in to a new measure, that will restrict visitors to Long Term Care facilities to those who are only essential visitors only, that as a move to decrease the number of visitors to better protect the Seniors and Elders. 

That measure will be re-evaluated on January 18th.

The Booster Vaccination Program, which is being administered by Doctor Penny Ballem, took most of the  spotlight for the remainder of the presentation, with Doctor Ballem providing the snapshot of the approach ahead to roll it out over the next few weeks.

"You know I think it's a remarkable feat that we continue to increase the numbers of fully vaccinated British Columbians, we're up to 92% of our province has been vaccinated with dose one, of those who are eligible and 89% dose two, is a remarkable achievement and to Doctor Henry's points, is actually providing us very significant protection against this new phase of the pandemic. 

Since we started our booster program on October 27th, we sent out 1.146 million booster invitations, we've actually provided 905,784 boosters to date, that's up to the end of yesterday ... One of the things if you look at access to appointments for vaccines,  there are 720 locations as of today in British Columbia that are providing vaccinations and that will continue to increase in the coming weeks. 

And there are accessible appointments even this week,  as of yesterday we had another 8,400 slots available for you to get your vaccination before the New Year rings in on Saturday"

For the New Year, Doctor Ballem outlined the work to increase capacity through January and into February to bring it to a conclusion even sooner, noting that as of today there are 240,000 British Columbians with invitations to book an appointment today, who have yet to take the province up on the offer.

The coming weeks could see whole community clinics in plac and an increasing reliance on Pharmacy partners spread around the province, Dr. Ballem noting of the work of the pharmacies to join in on the BC Vaccination network information program, and makes for one point to book an appointment.

As for the booster vaccine rollout the priorities have followed the guidance of the previous dose one and two program,  of those as risk, who are vulnerable due to immuno suppression, because they are elderly or to protect the health care system. 

As well Indigenous communities and those who work in the Health Care system have been among those to gain an invitation as a priority group.

Health Minister Dix spoke the challenges facing the health care system, amid the rising cases of Omicron variant, observing of the steps British Columbians can take to reduce the burdens on the system.

"But our biggest test, this may be as big a test as we have faced though this pandemic. And so we are taking those steps and we need everyone to take those steps. 

To exercise the control we have and the cases numbers rising like this, is a sense of lack of control. But we have control. Control means, this evening limited gatherings, celebrate with the ones you love. 

Control means limited  the gatherings in general, control means staying home when you're sick, control means wearing your mask, control means washing your hands, control means when invited to be vaccinated to book an appointment and to get vaccinated"   

The gap between vaccination invites and acceptances so far, was also a focus for HealthMinister Asian Dix, who urge British Columbians to book their appointments as soon as invited.

"When you get your invitation, book your appointment and get your booster ... this would be a good day, this would be a good day. When you're one of those people in those vulnerable categories, and if you're one of those 240,000 people you're there, because you have vulnerability to COVID-19. 

This would be a good day, the final day of 2021, to book your booster dose and I encourage everyone to do so"

The province has also reduced the period of time for self-isolation  after testing positive to COVID-19 to five days down from ten for those who are vaccinated, people who are infected however, will still be require to wear a mask for an addition five days after leaving self isolation, that when they are around others.

If you're not vaccinated, the full ten day period of self-isolation remains. 

The Q & A session with media reporters covered much of the vaccine rollout program, as well as themes of testing and the current pressures on the health care system.,

You can review that session below:

Locally Northern Health has been providing guidance on the Vaccination program, though if the comments from the Prince Rupert specific Facebook page in recent days are an indication. There may be a need for a more comprehensive information campaign to be introduced in January to share the word on the program in the Northwest.

You can follow the daily updates on COVID from the Province through our archive page here.

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